Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), with back-up support from NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, used the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release a Japanese cargo spacecraft at 11:51 a.m. EST. At the time of release, the space station was flying 254 miles over the northern Pacific Ocean. Earlier, ground controllers used the robotic arm to unberth the cargo craft.
After release, a new, small reentry capsule will be deployed from the unpiloted H-II Transfer Vehicle-7 (HTV-7) of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Designed by JAXA and assembled by the station crew, the conically shaped capsule measures 2 feet in height and 2.7 feet in width. The project is a technology demonstration designed to test JAXA’s ability to return small payloads from the station for expedited delivery to researchers.
HTV-7 will be a safe distance away from the space station after the last of several deorbit maneuvers. The return capsule will be ejected from a hatchway after the deorbit burn. The experimental capsule will perform a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Japan, where a JAXA ship will be standing by for its recovery.
The HTV-7 spacecraft is scheduled to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up harmlessly over the South Pacific Ocean Nov. 10.